Authentic Zimtsterne (German Christmas Cookies)
Zimtsterne, or cinnamon stars, are classic German Christmas cookies. They are similar to gingerbread cookies, but made with ground almonds and flavored heavily with cinnamon. They are chewy on the inside and very crispy on the outside, simple to make, and glazed plainly with egg whites and sugar.
I learned this Zimtsterne recipe from Lilly of Lilly’s German Bakery. It’s a family favorite that she grew up with and I was so excited to get to bake this authentic recipe together with her in my St. Louis kitchen.
Zimtsterne are gluten-free cookies made without any all-purpose flour. The main ingredient is ground almonds. You can grind your own in a food processor or purchase almond meal.
Powered sugar is used in the Zimtsterne dough itself, on the table when you roll out the dough, and in the glaze.
Cinnamon is the main flavor of the recipe. If you are picky about your cinnamon types (I’m not), use your favorite variety in these cookies. If you want to go non-traditional, add in some other spices like nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cardamom.
There is also a touch of spiced dark rum in the Zimtsterne dough. It adds to the flavor of the cookies, but doesn’t make them taste rum-like at all. If you don’t use alcohol, you could always substitute a spiced apple cider.
How It’s Made
- Start by whisking together the dry ingredients (ground almonds, powered sugar, cinnamon, and salt).
- Mix in egg whites and rum using your hands. Place the dough on a surface lightly dusted with powdered sugar and knead to bring it all together.
- Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut out 2″ wide stars. I recommend buying a star cookie cutter set [paid link]. It’s fun to have all the different sizes.
- Make the glaze by whipping egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form and then folding in powdered sugar.
- Brush the uncooked stars with the glaze or dip one side of them into the glaze and then smooth it out. Both methods work well.
- Bake at 300 F for about 12 minutes. They may not seem totally done, but they will harden as they cool.
Expert Tips and FAQs
Yes! No problem. You don’t always need 70 cookies and this recipe works just as well cut in half.
They last for a couple of weeks at room temperature in a loosely covered container. They also freeze very well.
No! I have baked them with and without the glaze and both ways work well. If you don’t use the glaze, you can decorate after the fact with your favorite frosting or royal icing.
This German word “Zimtsterne” comes from the combination of two shorter words: “zimt” meaning cinnamon, and “sterne” meaning star.
Other Christmas Cookies and German Desserts
- Christmas Snowman Cookies
- German Peppernut (Pfeffernusse) Cookies
- Cinnamon Sugar Cookies
- Simple Speculoos Cookies (Copycat Biscoff)
- Madeleine Cookies
Zimtsterne (German Cinnamon Star Cookies)
- 4 1/4 cups ground almonds almond meal
- 2 cups powdered sugar plus extra for rolling
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon spiced rum
- 1 egg white
- pinch salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 300 F.
- Whisk together ground almonds, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
- Mix in egg whites and rum, then knead by hand until fully combined.
- Sprinkle counter with powdered sugar and roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick.
- Cut out stars using a 2" star cookie cutter and transfer them to a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Beat egg whites with salt until stiff peaks form (this takes several minutes with an electric mixer).
- Gently fold in powdered sugar.
- Brush glaze onto unbaked cookies using a pastry brush or dip one side of the dough in a small bowl of glaze and use a small spatula to even the glaze out.
- Bake glazed cookies for about 12 minutes. The cookies won't be completely set, but they will harden as they cool. Transfer to a cooling rack.
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